Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2009, page 11-30.
English resume

‘To be in control’

The road to a good psychosocial working environment, earning and innovation?

Helge Hvid

The concept of control has been central in the conceptualisation of psychosocial working environment for 30 years since Robert Karasek developed the Demand/Control model in the 1970s. An overwhelming occupational epidemiological documentation has been established since then, relating risks to a low degree of control.
According to Karasek’s concept of control, ‘to be in control’ includes a certain degree of autonomy in work (what Karasek calls task authority) and opportunities for development of personal capability (skill discretion). Basically the concept of control is founded on the premises that man is capable of taking care of her or his own life and our common life. Furthermore, to prevent people from do so is a violation of basic human needs, which leads to illnesses and death.
The concept of control has been challenged by other concepts of psychosocial working environment: quality of management, the relation between effort and reward, and ability and opportunity for coping. In the article it is argued that control is a perspective that also to a certain extent can include management, reward and coping.
There is however a need for development of the concept of control. Robert Karasek’s concept was closely connected to the individual job. The associational aspect of control was underestimated (even though social support is included in the D/C model).
The need for development of the concept of control is increasing, because there is a current trend in working life to create autonomy in the individual job, but at the same time to increase standardisation and management control, not least through computer based work systems. The current challenge for the concept of control is illustrated by four case studies from the fi nancial sector. Here de-bureaucratization and team organisation have been an important part of the organizational development in the last decade. However, at the same time work has been standardised, and performance is controlled in sophisticated ways. A development which in the 1970s and 1980s would be identifi ed as steps towards increased control, today perhaps involves steps which actually decrease control.


Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)


 

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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt